Monday, August 30, 2010


A Valencian rice dish that originated in its modern form in the mid-19th century near lake Albufera, a lagoon in Valencia, on the east coast of Spain.  End history class via wikipedia.  This is one of those dishes that you can spend a butt load of cash on or keep it economical and affordable.  It really depends on your tastes and what your going after.  Ive seen this dish loaded with Lobster, Prawns, Snails, and Caviar.  I've also seen it with veggies and Beef but yet, still delicious in its own right. 

If you have children, this can be a somewhat trying dish.  And when I say trying, I refer to your mental stability as a home cook/chef.  Nothing is more debilitating to your cooking ego than spending money on a nice dish and having it come out perfect in both smell, flavor, and look.  Only to have your 6 yr old look at the dish, then you, and shout "YUCK!" Then taste a grain of rice with the tip of his tongue and start to dry heave.  Therefore, I recommend this for a adult get together.  If children are present give the little buggers Hot dogs.

This is one of many favorite dishes of my wife Amy.  We don't have it often but when we do its pleasing and filling and there are days of leftovers that get more and more flavorful.

Amy's Favorite Paella


1 pound of chicken thighs cut into bite sized pieces
1 pound chorizo or linguiza sausage, cut into pieces (Linguiza if you can, but hard to find in Wyo)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium white onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups medium grain rice
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 pound cleaned shrimp
3 1/2 cups chicken stock (or water in a pinch)
12 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1/2 pound fresh mussels
1/2 pound little neck clams
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

Optional: a couple fillets of fish chopped into bite sided pieces, or even lobster or crab claws

GOT Paella?

In a large paella panPaderno World Cuisine 18.5 Inch Polished Carbon Steel Paella Pan , or two large skillets if you don't have a paella pan, fry chicken and chorizo until browned. Add onion and garlic.

Add dried rice to the pan and cook until rice becomes slightly browned.

Add stock and tomatoes (not drained) in and stir in saffron. Cover and cook over low heat until the liquid is absorbed (20-30 minutes).

Stir in parsley. Top with raw seafood and allow dish to keep cooking covered until the seafood is cooked. The shellfish will open up and the fish fillets will become flaky white all the way through.

Garnish with fresh parsley and lemon wedges and serve.

*This is an easy easy easy meal.  I cant stress enough how easy.  The main goal is to steam and simmer not stirring, poking, or prodding.  Just monitor the heat and sit back and drink a Dos Equis*


Friday, August 27, 2010

Marinades That Rock Your Buds

My Dad was a true blue native California carnivore who liked flavor.  I think that is why he loved to BBQ so much.  Even back in the 50's and 60's I have photos showing him manning his Berquet Grill with his tongs in one hand and his Heniken in the other.  I even have seen my step mothers favorite photo of my dad walking away from the camera with nothing on but an apron with tongs in one hand and a platter of Ribeyes in the other.  I think its strange that as an adult that is one of the fondest images I have in my memory of him.  It kind of sums up who he was. 

One of many favorites from my Dads arsenal of flavor was a Basque marinade.  When we moved away from California it became very hard to come by.  Whenever we visited my Dad we always came home with 6 to 12 of them stuffed in our bags.  Now days, you can just get on the web and order them. I like to order mine from .  They run about 6.50 each.  You can use this with just about any meat.  I've even used it on hamburger a few times and it is just amazing.

Another great treat to blow your taste buds is the famous Santa Maria, CA. Tri-tip marinade.  I was introduced to this by my Dad when I was about 12 and have been in love with it since then.  We traveled allot back then as a family and when we were in the area of Santa Maria, Dad picked up the recipe and has used it hundreds of times for family get togethers and neighborhood party's.

Santa Maria Tri-tip Marinade


2 to 2 1/2 lb beef tri-tip roast
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 cloves crushed garlic

Rubbing and Rest:

Combine the black pepper, salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, rosemary, and cayenne in a small bowl. Rub on to all surfaces of the tri-tip. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

After the Rest:

Remove the tri-tip and let sit out for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Add the Dijon, vinegar, and crushed garlic to a blinder , with a lid on and the pour hole open turn on and slowly add vegetable oil until emulsified.

BBQ Away!

Prepare your charcoal or gas barbecue grill. Place the tri-tip on the grill and brush with the oil and vinegar emulsion. Turn every 3-4 minutes, basting generously each time. Grill for 25-30 minutes for medium-rare (internal temp of 135 degrees F.). The outside of the roast will get very dark and develop a charred crust, this is desired and one of the signature characteristics of this recipe.

Remove the tri-tip from the grill to a large platter. Let rest for 15 minutes before slicing in 1/4 inch thick pieces across the grain.

Serve as plain or fancy as you feel like but in California restaurants, most often, they will serve this with tortillas and salsa.

The Professional ChefYou will note,  I will often say this over and over in my recipes about resting your meats and cutting across the grain of the meat.  These are important finishing steps when dealing with meats. I recommend reading "The Professional Chef"  By the CIA (Culinary Institute of America).  This book is the standard text book for 1st year Students of the CIA, but the information in this is just priceless when it comes to little simple changes that equal HUGH flavor and quality.  I personally, have in my collection the 7th and the 8th edition.  I reference then often for tips on how to improve my quality and my flavor. 


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Crispy Pizza

I enjoy pizza immensely. I enjoy its crispy crusts, the combination of spice and sausage. I just flat love the stuff. I'm fortunate to have experienced both east and west coast but by far the one that has stuck out in my memories was my visit to in Chicago with my wife and our good friends. Of the few times I have visited Chicago, I have never been disappointed in its food. I'm hoping to return there with my wife and children in 2011 and you can rest assured that I will be hitting Giordano's. Hitting it HARD!

Last night was one of those nights that that I wanted Pizza. Maybe, wanted is not a strong enough word. I yearned. I craved. I fantasized. So, being the average Wyoming family that budgets there income fairly tight, ordering out wasn't an option. So, we made our own. Yes! We made pizza dough. We stretched the dough to the traditional shape. back in the day, I made pizzas from scratch and spun the dough into the air, giving the customers a little show as they ordered there meals at the counter. I'd like to point out that there were no ceiling fans in that kitchen, and I forgot to take that into account when I gave the wife and children a little show of there own last night. Once the activities were over, which included cleaning the ceiling fan, we comminced with the cooking.

Pizza Dough:

1 pound (or about 3 1/2 cups) high gluten flour
3/4 cup warm water (the warm water is very important)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

In a heavy-duty stand mixer (mine is a KitchenAid KSM150PSWH Artisan Series 5-Quart Mixer, White) fitted with dough hook, add the water, oil, yeast, salt, and sugar. Mix thoroughly until yeast has fully dissolved. Add flour and mix on low speed until all of the flour and water have mixed and a stiff dough ball forms, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stop mixing as soon as the dough ball forms as this type of dough should not be kneaded.

I cannot over-emphasize the importance of a 24-hour rising time since it is absolutely essential for the dough to develop its signature texture and, more importantly, its unique flavor! Do not skip this step! "Keep in mind, good food takes time and time makes for good food."

Getting ready to Bake:
Preheat your oven to 500 °F for about an hour and your BBQ Grill on medium low before you plan to bake the pizza. If you have a pizza stone I would recommend using it. I have a very large Stone( Old Stone 4461 16-Inch Round Oven Pizza Stone ) that I keep in the oven most of the time, hardly ever removing it.
Turn the dough out onto a large surface and dust with flour. Using a heavy rolling pin, roll the dough out very thin to form a 24-inch or larger circle. Dust a pan lightly with flour, place the dough in the pan. This will make it alot easyer to walk the dough outside to the BBQ grill.
BBQ Grill Pre-Bake:
Prebake your crust on a BBQ grill. Only on one side. This may seem a bit tricky for some but its quite simple. Just allow the dough to slide on its own off of your pan and onto the grill slowly, keeping in mind your placement so not to short yourself grill room . If it wont slide, just give a few short little shakes back and forth to loosen the dough from the pan.  Your other option is to simply pick the dough up with your hands and transfer straight to the grill, which is what I do usually.  Its isn't very hard just a bit intimidating for some.  Once on the grill, the dough will rise a little and begin to stiffen and get a crust (about 5 - 10 minutes). Remove from grill.

Finishing up:

Grill marked side down add your sauce of choice, meat, cheese, and veggies. The rule of thumb for pizza, more than 3 toppings will make your flavors blahh. Also, more is not better as most people like to load up there pies. Once you have finished slide the pizza into your oven to finish the pie. I never time this part. I watch the toppings. I look for the cheese to be melted and for a little bit of browning. I also keep a close eye on the meat or veggies so they don't burn or dry out. Once you see all these signs and most importantly, smell the aroma of the pizza its time to remove, slice, and serve!


Monday, August 23, 2010

Chicken Penne Pasta with Pesto Cream

Something that's not common knowledge about Restaurant's and Bistro's is that in the afternoon prior to opening for service, the kitchen staff prepares a large meal (Family Meal) for themselves and wait staff. Sometimes, the meal will initial the evening menu so that everyone becomes familiar with the dish and its ingredients. By doing this, your wait staff can provide a wider range of knowledge to the customer resulting in the customer not having to take a "stab in the dark" with a unfamiliar dish. Well, enough of that. Let me bring you to the reason for that opening. I often prepared "Chicken Penne Pasta with Pesto Cream" for family meal quite often because everyone always enjoyed it and asked for it. It was one of those dishes that was simple to prepare but packed with great flavor and satisfying to eat.

Some years later I rediscovered this simple dish when we had some last minute Friday night plans with friends that was dropped on me by my wife and with little to prepare other than some Chicken, Penne pasta, Pesto, and some heavy cream that was left from making some homemade ice cream. So, in a matter of 45 minutes I was able to prepare this long forgotten family meal and serve up a nice refreshing dinner with very little stress.

I have made this meal a dozen or so time for Friends, and I have been asked for the recipe probably as many times. So, to my friend Lindsey, here you go after, what has it been? 5 years since you 1st asked me for this? Anyway, better late than never.

Chicken Penne Pasta w/ Pesto Cream:


1 (16 ounce) package penne pasta

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

2 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

1/4 cup pesto

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

The Pasta:

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente then drain and set aside *do not rinse pasta this will remove some of the remaining starch that will help thicken your cream*

The Chicken:

Salt and pepper chicken prior to grilling. If time is not an issue I recommend salt and peppering the day before. Grill your chicken making sure to do neat crosshatch grill marks on both sides. this will make your chicken stand out in the dish rather than blending in with the pasta and be lost visually. Remove chicken from grill. I tend to try and under cook the chicken so that when you add it to the pasta and sauce you finish cooking it, rather than overcooking, which will make the chicken dry and fibrous and not very pallet pleasing. Let chicken rest for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. Once chicken has rested, slice in a diagonal direction making the slices about 1/8th inch thick. it is important to make your cuts across the grin of the meat. reason for this is the meat will break down in your mouth easier and prevent the chewy factor that chicken can sometimes have, even if not overcooked.

Pesto Cream:

Heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic . Reduce heat and stir in pesto, cream, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper (to taste, be mindful you have salted and peppered your chicken and also your pasta water. You can always add more in the end) . Reduce the sauce to the point that the sauce coats your spoon.

Bringing it all together:

Add your chicken and once again reduce the sauce since the moisture in your chicken will loosen up the sauce. Once the sauce coats your spoon again add your pasta and gently fold to incorporate the chicken and pasta into the pesto cream evenly. When your Pesto cream coats your pasta remove from heat.


Ya know, I really hate dictating to people how to present there creations from the kitchen, but I will give some suggestions. Since this meal was always meant as a family meal and its roots are Italian, I would suggest placing it in a large bowl and garnishing with Parmesan and a few large basil leafs.

I will leave it up to you what you want to serve this with. I typically serve toasted Baguettes with garlic and a fresh Romaine hart salad.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Green Beans = Num Num Num

Growing up, I had many issues with many types of veggies. Texture, taste, and most importantly, freshness and appearance. My parents always had a huge garden with many, many types of veggies and fruits during my pre-teen years in California . There is absolutely no comparison to having fresh veggies or fruits at your beck-n-call. But, like many foods, preparation and application is of the utmost importance to complement those nuggets of goodness that grow out of your backyard or your local farmer. My Sister-in law and my Brother-in law are fortunate to live in Chicago and have access to some outstanding produce markets. They posted some pictures on there Blog that I just have to share ,

Which brings me to my topic. FRESH GREEN BEANS!! Fresh from our garden straight to the dinner table. My wife's delight is her green bean plants and this year, for the 1st time, she is trying soy beans as well. Last night after returning home from the local farmers market she was able to harvest about 2 lbs from the garden. Last week we tried something a little new instead of the typical steam or boil. We tried "Green Bean Almandine" as a Saute. They turned out delicious and also very easy to make. last night, we ran into a little hitch though, no almonds! So, like many, who really didn't want to drive to the store, we left them out. The result, was still the same. Delicious little nuggets of crunchy goodness.

Fresh Green Bean and Garlic Saute'
2 lbs of Fresh Green Beans
4 cloves of garlic Minced
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
Kosher Salt
In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter with the garlic until the butter is golden brown and smells nutty; make sure the garlic doesn't burn.
Raise the heat to high and add the Green Beans, in batches if need be, flipping and stirring, until you start to see some searing marks on beans, about 1 to 2 minute. At this point you will want to add you kosher salt to taste. ( Important not to over saute because you want to maintain the crispness of the green beans)

Remove Green beans from pan to serving platter. I usually like to grab one bean to taste just after I plate to taste the seasoning. Garnish with a little more kosher salt if not to salty already as the green beans tend to absorb the salt pretty quickly.

We had this with some butter leaf lettuce and arugula salad from the garden. For the protein side of the meal, we just BBQ'd some Brats. I actually put the green beans in the bun with my Brat and ate them that way. I have to say it was strange, but pretty darn tasty.

So in closing, I think it would be a crime for me not to state, even if you live in Wyoming, Fresh produce can be had and enjoyed immensely. You don't need to live in the big city's near those wonderful market. Its would be great if we could but the fact is, we don't. But, you have options and you have opportunity's for saliva drooling freshness. Enjoy your summer! Enjoy your freshness!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Oh, what to do with Zucchini !?!?


Say in slowly with me now. "Zoo - Kee - Knee" I bet you didn't know that this popular summer squash that is commonly deemed a vegetable is actually a "Fruit"! Lies you say!! Well, after a bit of research I found this to be so. I also found out that this "Fruit" originates from Milan. The French called the Zucchini a "Courgette" which translates to vegetable. There is a pretty extensive history of this Vegg.....errrr...uhh Fruit, from its travel over time from Italy, to France, to the America's, to ultimately my back yard garden.

I am always amazed how fast the Zucchini grows. It is if this plant was born in some crazed alchemist lab in a deep dark basement. This is why you need to keep a close eye on the size your Zucchini. The general rule is the smaller the Zucchini, the milder the taste and the bigger the Zucchini, well I think you get the picture.

Here is a picture from my garden of our Zucchini plant. Notice the size of the Zucchini on the Left. That is the perfect size for baby Zuc's if your preference is some very tender Veggies/Fruits (so confusing, lets just stick with Veggies for mental stability). If you looking for a mixed veggie dish, then I would allow it to grow about double the current size. That's what is great about these plants. you can wait a few days for the next perfect size. Did you notice the blossoms in this picture? You can use those as well!! I've seen chef's make a creamy doughy stuffing and put that inside the blossom. They make a great garnish as well, just be mindful that the main item in the dish is Zucchini or the garnish makes no since.

Italian Zucchini Saute:


1/2 cup olive oil

1 small white onion, sliced into thin wedges

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice

2 zucchinis, sliced

1/2 teaspoons basil

1/2 teaspoons marjoram

1/2 teaspoons oregano

1/2 teaspoon sage

1 tablespoon fluer de sel (can substitute with kosher salt)

1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion and cook until tender. Mix in tomatoes with juice, herbs and zucchini, saute untill sauce reduces, at which point the Zucchinis should be tender. Season to taste with your fluer de sel (sea salt). Mix in sugar and adjust to your personal taste. I made the Sugar optional because some may like this dish as is once finished.

This saute would go wonderful over a pasta of your choice. I don't try to dictate what pasta to use because, like myself, I don't always like the pasta of choice. I'll leave it up to you to pick. Personaly, I would put this over Soba noodles. I currently like Soba noddles and i think they are kinda trendy.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Cauliflower Pancakes

*I wrote this some time ago on an older blog I started but never committed too and eventually forgot the loggin information. I hope you have a few laughs at my expense. Enjoy! *

Once in awhile, I meander through my thoughts as if I'm cruising over my collection of cook books. I ponder over Specific areas or favorites or I brood over something that has hung me up over and over again. I compare my life and thoughts too cooking and food, mainly because it has always been my 1st love as a child. Now, don't get me wrong, it's in no way, shape, or form a religion to me, but if I didn't have a Faith I would most likely be a Hissidic foodie. I would have dawn a Chef coat like a Catholic priest dawns the whites.

My fondest memory that associates with being in the kitchen was when I was 5 or 6 yrs old and hanging out with my gammy in her kitchen (Colinga, CA.) eating raw potatoes with kosher salt. She would cut wedge size strips and I would pounce with a "CRUNCH!" and the taste buds on my tongue would go wild with "gimme more, gimme more". The memory has stayed strong with me over the years, and I compare all food prepared by myself and all others, to that sensation and yearning of the taste buds. It has never lead me wrong when creating or tweaking any dish.

Once, Gammy was gone, I hooked into my Mom, whom I might add was a wonderful cook. She always leaned towards the baking/confectioner side of the kitchen. Mom did have a sweet tooth and loved to collect the recipes for them. I get my fetish for cook books honestly as I inherited ALL Mom's recipes which numbered into the thousands.

My Dad, however, was a great BBQ'er but when he hit the kitchen, which was usually Saturday or Sunday mornings, It meant bad seas ahead for my sister and I. Now let me start by saying Breakfast should never, EVER include the following items:

Broccoli, Cauliflower, Asparagus, Beets, Eggplant, Turnips, and Squash of any kind!!!

Dad would break out the electric flat-top and start cooking so Beacon filled the air of our weekend morning house with false hopes of Bacon and Pancakes so that my sister and I would be lulled. We would groggily come out of our rooms to the aromas. We would see my Mom in her zip-up full flannel gown with cigarette in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other smiling and asking if were hungry. She would be all excited while telling us "Your Dad has made some extra special Pancakes this morning." My sister and I, not having enough of those "Life experiences" yet, were herded to the table like Lambs to the slaughter. What to our eyes did we see? Pancakes! Well, not normal Pancakes. These Pancakes have marble size lumps in them. They looked to us like Pancakes other than the lumps. My Dad sat there Proud as a Chef who just received a Michelin star for his efforts. We, on the other hand, were starting to think this could be the "Surprise" Mom was so Jazzed over.

My sister was the 1st to ask, "What are the Lumps in the Pancakes?" and I was quick to ask right after, "Are there chocolate chips in the Pancakes?" Both of us hoping to get an affirmed and resounding "Yes! They are." But those words never left my Dads lips. Rather, he said, "I have made Cauliflower Pancakes this morning. Eat them up quick, because I have some more on the griddle in the shape of Mickey Mouse for you two munchkins."

This situation repeated itself many times over in our household with many different endings. Now, I don't recall the specific detail for this story's ending but, I did ask for Cereal and I did get a beating for trying to hide the Pancakes behind my Moms bookkeeping desk.

From those Breakfast moments, I swore to never include the listed veggies in any dish of any kind for breakfast Mains, ingredients, or sides. They do NOT belong on the breakfast table.

So with this little story I leave you with a little taste of my twisted journey with many more to come.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tis' the season for the Squash

I received a few inquires yesterday about recipes for Squash. Come to find out the reason for these inquires is because, like most growing seasons in Wyoming, people around our community are giving away there summer bounties of the things. Summer Squash extravaganza! Drive by Squashing! I might add that "Drive by Squashing" are what I refer to when someone leaves Squash at your doorstep when your away from the house. This happens often in August and September. So to do my part for our green thumb community, I offer one of many creative recipes.

lets start with Butternut Squash: Butternut Squash Bisque

The mild sweetness of butternut squash soup is perfectly offset with a trio of fresh, savory herbs that are easily grown in your garden or bought from your local grocer. This recipe can also easily be converted to a vegetarian dish by using a good quality vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock.


1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 teaspoon fresh, chopped thyme

1/2 teaspoon fresh, crushed rosemary

1 fresh sage leaf, finely chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed

2 1/4 cups chicken stock

1 cup heavy cream

Croutons for garnish


In a large saucepan over medium, saute the onion, celery, thyme, rosemary, and sage in the olive oil for 5-7 minutes, until the vegetables turn tender. Add the salt and pepper and saute the vegetables and herbs for an additional 2 minutes.

Add the butternut squash and chicken stock to the pan and bring the soup to simmer. Reduce the heat slightly, cover, and simmer the soup for 20 minutes, until the squash is tender.

Puree the soup in a counter top blender or with an immersion blender until it is completely smooth. Stir in the heavy cream and heat through. Serve the bisque hot, garnished with Croutons or Crustinies

This butternut squash bisque recipes makes 6 servings.

I hope you enjoy!


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Soup Du Jour

There are many things that can make for a good soup. Consommés, Fish soups, Noodle soups, Bisques, Coulis, and Clear or Stocks to name just a few types. Some are simple, some are very complexed and take days of preparation. like so many other things, a complex soup does not equal superior taste over a simple soup. Allot depends on quality and freshness of your ingredients. If you use allot of frozen, dried, and preserved items, well, quite frankly, your soup will suffer for it. Now don't get me wrong. It won't make your soup bad for the pallet, but it won't make it sing either.

I have had the pleasure of playing with a few recipes from my collection of cook books for my work. I was shooting for something refreshing and simple since time is at a minimum and prep isn't always available to me. So I came across "Thai Pea Soup". The recipe needed modification for it to work into my window of prep and cook time. so once I adjusted ingredients for making 8 qt. I had to also adjust seasonings since peas are naturally sweet and need to be balanced just right or everything will be lost to the sweetness.
So, since most of you wont be making 8 qt of soup, I will show you the base recipe I ended with before I morphed it.

4 Cups Peas

3 Cups Vegetable Stock

5 Cloves Garlic -- Chopped

1 Teaspoon Thai Green Curry Paste

2 Tablespoons Mint -- Chopped

Salt And Pepper -- To Taste

1 Teaspoon Canola Oil

1/2 Teaspoon Black Mustard Seeds

Bring stock to a boil. Add Peas and let boil for 10 more min. Add garlic, curry paste, and mint and let Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for a few minutes then Puree. Season with salt and pepper. In small pan, saute mustard seeds in oil for about 2 minutes. Combine the two pans and serve. Serves about 4 people